of grounds in France’s unspoilt Haut Var area
This splendid property lies between the shimmering Mediterranean Sea and the spectacular Verdon Gorge, tucked away in a specially protected natural area. It stands nine kilometres from the town of Aups and is very close to the region’s quaintest villages, which include Tourtour, Villecroze, Sillans-la-Cascade and Salernes. Nice airport is an hour and a half away from the property. And the town of Draguignan with its high-speed train station is a 30-minute drive from the villa. Two kilometres away from the local village, a country lane climbs up a valley listed as a protected natural zone. The property’s entrance comes into view at the top of this lane. The backdrop is enchanting. At dawn, rocky outcrops glow with warm hues among majestic oaks and towering Aleppo pines. At the front, the villa’s panoramic vista stretches from east to west, taking in unspoilt landscape that typifies France’s stunning Var area.
A craggy cliff protects the back of the house. The villa was designed to enjoy a sweeping view. This modernist building was conceived by the American architect Alex Krikhaar. The dwelling stands on a south-facing 1.74-hectare plot and offers around 610m² of liveable floor area in a single-storey structure, crowned with an artist’s studio. The villa’s design drew inspiration from the notion of ‘universal space’ that the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe promoted. It emphasises open areas and 20th-century materials: steel, concrete and glass.
From the kitchen at the east end to the bedrooms at the west end, the rooms join up with each other smoothly and harmoniously. The broad picture windows that run across the facade underline the modularity of the whole villa. Partitions between rooms are designed to be pulled back: large sliding panels close spaces and open them up, depending on your needs. The north side, which includes a caretaker’s apartment, is dotted with only a handful of simple rectangular or square windows, as is the artist’s studio, which lies above the garage and in which small windows are the only openings, like in many buildings in the south of France.
This remarkable edifice perched on a rocky outcrop is at once a place for everyday life and a place for creative expression, a designer house and an artist’s residence, a foundation’s premises and a painter’s studio. A rock garden with oleanders and cactuses extends at the foot of the building. Beyond this garden lies an olive grove, stretching in the direction of an undulating valley below and, in the distance, the foothills of the Massif des Maures mountain range.
The ground floor
An entrance door made of red cedar, adorned with wrought-bronze features, leads into a hallway. Natural light reflects on a wall opposite the entrance door, brightening up the hall and suggesting a larger, brighter room beyond it.
A vast space lies beyond this hallway. It offers a panoramic view of the surroundings outside and diagonal views of different indoor areas bathed in natural light. First, you step into an extensive lounge. Picture windows rise up from the floor to the ceiling and cover the villa’s entire south-facing facade. All the rooms look outside through these large panes, which underline the fluidity and bond between the spaces. A brick fireplace stretches up to the ceiling. It is entirely faced with tiles of dark green Brazilian granite. This fireplace separates the lounge from an office with a library and forms a link between the two areas. The whole vast space also includes a large bedroom with its own bathroom and walk-in wardrobe. This bedroom faces east to enjoy the sunrise behind the nearby mountains. At the back, a partition forms a passage to a corridor. The latter connects to a spacious garage that is big enough to contain three cars.
A staircase leads up to an artist’s studio, which lies above the garage, then to a landing and a roof terrace.
The extensive ground floor continues eastwards to a kitchen with an island unit and a dining area that leads out onto an outdoor terrace. At the villa’s west end, a passage leads from the lounge to two bedrooms with their own bathrooms and walk-in wardrobes and to an exhibition room. The latter offers a square floor area with sides that are all roughly nine metres long. This exhibition space is brightened up by a central skylight: a square opening with sides that are three metres long. A pair of frosted-glass doors connects this art gallery to the rest of the villa. Square travertine tiles with 50-centimetre sides adorn all the floors to offer seamless movement around the whole home – including the terrace. Metal strips run across the ceiling and outside above the edge of the terrace, which further underlines the seamless continuity between the interior and the exterior.
From the ground-floor passage linking the house to its garage, a flight of concrete open-riser stairs climbs upwards, edged with a steel balustrade painted white. This staircase leads to an artist’s studio and a mezzanine that takes you out onto a roof terrace. A single square skylight with one-metre sides brightens up the space, which ensures that no shadows cross paths from any secondary source of light. The garage’s 2.2-metre ceiling height made it possible for the artist’s studio to be placed three metres above ground. In the studio, broad windows look out at the woods below. Wood strip flooring extends across the room. In the middle of the studio, a large slit closed with a long-hinged cover can be used to lower large canvases straight down into the garage.
The caretaker’s accommodation
A caretaker’s dwelling adjoins the villa at its north-west corner. This section contains a separate apartment with a floor area of around 75m². It includes a lounge with an open-plan kitchen, two bedrooms, a bathroom and a separate lavatory. The walls are painted, the floors adorned with ceramic tiles. A south-west window leads out onto a terrace, also covered with ceramic tiles. A private garden surrounds this terrace. This apartment could be a caretaker’s home or it could be rented out as a gîte.
The outdoor terrace looks down at the garden. This terrace is dotted with sculptures created by different contemporary artists. It runs along the entire south-facing facade. Steps lead down from it to an infinity pool lined with ceramic tiles. One edge of this swimming pool is slightly lower than the surface of the water so that the water runs over this edge to be collected and filtered.
At the foot of the terrace and pool, a rock garden with oleanders and cactuses follows the slope of the land and leads to an olive grove.
Behind the villa, the land is wooded. Here, pines and oaks tower over an untamed area that leads to rocks and caves dug into the cliffs.
The iconic Le Corbusier wrote, ‘Architecture is the correct, masterly, magnificent play of forms brought together in the light’. Here, in this property, the architect Alex Krikhaar has brought Le Corbusier’s definition to life in the avant-garde tradition of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. This villa stands like a belvedere in a commanding position. It overlooks the unspoilt hills of Provence and blends seamlessly into its landscape. The building has been designed with pleasant harmony and impressive expertise. It is more than just a dwelling: it invites contemplation. The modularity of the property is remarkable. There is great flexibility in its range of spaces, which combine to offer a unique haven bathed in natural light.
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Stephanie Benoit +33 1 42 84 80 85
NB: The above information is not only the result of our visit to the property; it is also based on information provided by the current owner. It is by no means comprehensive or strictly accurate especially where surface areas and construction dates are concerned. We cannot, therefore, be held liable for any misrepresentation.